Family trip to seaside ends in dramatic rescue from rip tide
- Credit: Jodie Blain
A family trip to the seaside nearly ended in tragedy for Gary Vinnicombe and his teenage nephew Jack Dunn.
They were together in the sea near the rocks at Sidmouth, with water up to their waists, in the late afternoon on Sunday, May 30, when things started to go wrong.
Gary, aged 53, from Honiton, explained: “Jack, his brother Oliver and mum Jodie Blain were at the beach with their grandparents. My wife Anne and I joined them later in the afternoon.
“Jack and Oliver were playing in the sea and I went to join them. We were throwing a ball around between us and having a good time.
“Oliver then went back to the beach and I stayed out with Jack. After a bit I noticed Jack was getting a bit close to the pile of rocks and I encouraged him not to get too close.”
Gary added: “Jack was trying to swim away from the rocks but not getting anywhere. I swam out to Jack and tried to get him onto a wave and back to the shore. But after 10 minutes of trying, we were getting nowhere.
“I thought, we are in a bit of trouble here.”
Gary, a former rugby player and at 6ft 3ins, a reasonable swimmer, could tell that the situation was serious.
He explained: “A rip tide had got us and we were drifting out quite fast. I raised my arm and signalled for help.
“Luckily the brilliant people at Jurassic Paddles came to our rescue. They had a large bodyboard and picked Jack up and onto it and took him back to safety. Then they came back and picked me up.”
Gary added: “We were quite lucky. I felt responsible for Jack and couldn’t believe that I had been caught out. I know what rip tides are and I consider myself a reasonable swimmer. I was worried that Jack might panic but we were OK in the end.
“Our family back on the beach had seen me signal for help and had called the Coastguard. In the end, a man and a woman from Jurassic Paddles got to us.”
Gary, who works for Ash and Lacy Construction on Heathpark in Honiton, said that the Jurassic Paddles people said he and Jack, who is 13, and lives in Chard, had been caught in a ‘perfect storm’ – an easterly wind and a high tide.
“There is a sign on the slipway at Sidmouth that warns of rip tides but I doubt if many families, loaded up with all their things for the beach, see it. The rock piles are quite attractive for families but they can be dangerous. I was told there have been quite a few incidents. It is a safety issue.”
The families offered to make a contribution to Jurassic Paddles for their timely intervention but they suggested the donation – £60 – be made to Sidmouth’s lifeboat. There are now plans for a beach lifeguard service to be put in place at Sidmouth.